Department of Philosophy

Wayne D. Riggs, Chair
Stephen Ellis, Graduate Liaison
Sherri Irvin, Director of Graduate Admissions
Zev Trachtenberg, Undergraduate Liaison
605 Dale Hall Tower
Norman, OK 73019-2006
Phone: (405) 325-6324
FAX: (405) 325-2660


Faculty Roster

Professors Benson, Cook, Hawthorne, Montminy, Sankowski, Zagzebski; Associate Professors Ellis, Irvin, Olberding, Riggs, Trachtenberg; Assistant Professors Demarest, Judisch, McRae, Miller, Priselac. 

Degrees Offered

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Information on both undergraduate and graduate programs is included. However, the general information contained in this section mainly covers undergraduate study. For additional information on graduate programs, individual documents detailing each graduate program are available from the Graduate College and their Web site at This information is updated yearly and should be referred to for requirements of each graduate program. 

General Information

The department offers broad training in the major fields of philosophy, with particular strengths in ethics, the history of ancient and modern philosophy, Chinese philosophy, logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, philosophy of art, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and political philosophy. A low graduate student/faculty ratio ensures individual attention for all graduate students. In addition to a wide range of courses, the department provides a rich and lively philosophical environment, with a good deal of informal interaction between faculty and students supplementing coursework and related activities. Additional information can be found on the department home page (address listed above).

Programs for Academic Excellence

Kingfisher College, Kingfisher, Oklahoma, discontinued giving instruction in 1927. An agreement with the trustees of the college provided for transferring a part of the library of the college to the University, for administering the Kingfisher College records for each graduate of Kingfisher College, recognizing the merits of the degree held by each, and inviting the holder to become associated with the alumni of the University. 

In 1951 the trustees of the college and the regents of the University jointly established a chair in the Department of Philosophy named Kingfisher College Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. Since its origin this chair has been expanded into an operative section of the Department of Philosophy, including both graduate and undergraduate level courses.


Undergraduate Study

Bachelor of Arts Degree

Undergraduate studies in philosophy provide a broad background for a variety of disciplines and intellectual pursuits. Students planning a career in college teaching, law, medicine or the ministry will find these studies especially useful. Two majors are offered: philosophy, and ethics and religion.


The philosophy major is an excellent preparation for professional graduate programs in business, medicine, and law, and for graduate programs in philosophy. It is also ideal as a second major in conjunction with physics, psychology, economics, political science, or literature. But perhaps most importantly, the philosophy major fosters a sense of wonder, and provides a rigorous intellectual method for gaining understanding of oneself and the world. By learning about the heritage of philosophical examination, students acquire an informed basis for arriving at their own conclusions about their most basic beliefs and values. Philosophy encourages students to become critical thinkers — to reason clearly and correctly concerning important and fundamental issues. 

The ability to write clear, coherent papers is essential to philosophy. Philosophy majors receive specialized training in writing for the field in a Writing Workshop, and they must take at least two majors-only courses, in which they have intensive writing requirements. 

Undergraduate philosophy majors are required to complete 31 hours in the field. They must take three courses in the history of philosophy, at least two of which must be the majors-only version (the 38xx numbered course): History of Ethics (3253 or 3853), History of Ancient Philosophy (3313 or 3813), and History of Modern Philosophy (3333 or 3833). In conjunction with one of the majors-only courses they must take the Writing Workshop (3811). They must also take Symbolic Logic I (4133) and either Metaphysics (4513), Epistemology (4523), Philosophy of Language (4533), Philosophy of Mind (4543), Philosophy of Science (4613), or Philosophy of Social Science (4623). A maximum of nine hours of lower-division courses may be used to satisfy major requirements. The Senior Capstone in Philosophy (PHIL 4893) is required of all majors. Students must earn a grade of C or better to receive credit for PHIL 4893. 


The ethics and religion program is offered in recognition of the significance of studies in ethics and religion to the development of informed and sensitive students. The program serves an important and widespread interest among students and the University’s larger community. 

Courses for the ethics and religion major are drawn chiefly from Philosophy, but students may also use relevant courses from other departments as cognate studies. Cognate courses are chosen in consultation with a departmental adviser, and are usually from Anthropology, Classics, English, History, Political Science Sociology, and Religious Studies. This ethics and religion program is enriched by the Bizzell Bible Collection of more than 700 items and a notable collection of monographs and journals dealing with social, ethical and religious themes. 

Like philosophy majors, ethics and religion majors are also given training in writing for philosophy. They must take at least one majors-only course, and Writing Workshop. 

Ethics and religion majors are required to complete at least 31 hours or major coursework. Required philosophy courses include: Introduction to Philosophy of Religion (2403); History of Ethics for Majors (3853); three courses from a list of courses in ethics, philosophy of religion, and history of philosophy (1203, 3293, 3313 or 3813, 3333 or 3833, 3423, 3433, 3443, 3713, 4293); and the Writing Workshop (3811). In addition, the Senior Capstone in Philosophy (PHIL 4893) is required of all majors. Students must earn a grade of C or better to receive credit for PHIL 4893.

Ethics and religion majors may choose, as their electives, a minimum of 12 hours of coursework from other disciplines related to studies in ethics and religion or from other philosophy courses. Appropriate courses shall be determined in consultation with the student’s adviser. A minimum of 15 hours of upper-division courses must be used to satisfy major requirements.


The minor requires at least 18 hours of philosophy, nine of which must be upper division, including Philosophy 1103 or 1113; 3313 or 3333; and a course from one of the following areas: aesthetics, ethics, philosophy of religion, social philosophy, and political philosophy. Students with special interests should consult one of the undergraduate advisers.  

Courses for Non-Majors

Most students who take philosophy courses are not philosophy majors. The topics covered by philosophy — e.g., moral, legal, aesthetic and religious values, logic, the theory of knowledge and the history of human thought on these subjects — are of interest to most college students, and many philosophy courses satisfy general education requirements. Non-majors are welcome in any course for which they have the appropriate prerequisites. Consult the course descriptions for information on prerequisites for courses above 3000.


Graduate Study


Applicants must satisfy the general requirements of the Graduate College, to which application should be made initially and transcripts sent. The department also requires the following: 

  • Brief statement of purpose; 
  • Scores on the GRE verbal, quantitative, and analytic examinations; 
  • Three letters of recommendation (preferably from teachers familiar with the student’s work); and
  • A writing sample (e.g., an undergraduate essay. 

Applicants who intend to leave OU after completing the Master’s degree should apply to the M.A. program. Applicants who wish to obtain a Ph.D. Degree from OU should apply to the Ph.D. program. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program are offered a graduate assistantship. 


It is normally expected that entering graduate students will have completed undergraduate work in logic and in the history of philosophy (ancient and modern). Students with a deficiency in one or more of these areas may be required to complete the appropriate undergraduate course(s) or to establish competency by special examination.

Master of Arts Degree

Thesis Program: The thesis option requires a minimum of 30 hours of graduate work, up to four of which may be thesis research. Students who have not taken the equivalent of “Symbolic Logic I” before coming to OU are required to take the course as part of the Master’s program. (Required courses must be passed with a grade of B or better.) With approval of the graduate adviser, up to eight hours may be taken outside the department. After deciding on the thesis topic in consultation with the graduate adviser, the student should begin work on the thesis well in advance of the time he or she expects to receive the degree. Additional details are available from the department.  

Nonthesis Program: The non-thesis option requires a minimum of 36 hours of graduate work. All required courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. With approval of the graduate adviser, up to eight hours may be taken outside the department. Additional details are available from the department.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 90 hours of graduate work, of which a maximum of 39 hours may be dissertation research. “Symbolic Logic II,” nine hours of history of philosophy (at least three in ancient and three in modern), nine hours of metaphysics and/or epistemology (at least three in metaphysics and three in epistemology), and nine hours of ethics (at least six in non-applied ethics) are required. All required courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. With approval of the advisory committee, up to 12 hours may be taken outside the department. Students in the Ph.D. program must pass a qualifying exam in their first or second year as described in the graduate syllabus. Doctoral candidates should be thoroughly familiar with the general requirements of the Graduate College. Where it is deemed necessary, the advisory committee may require proficiency in one or more foreign languages. After successfully completing a general examination in the student’s special field, followed by an oral examination, the student will prepare and submit a dissertation, which is supervised by the student’s dissertation committee. For further details, see the section “Doctoral Dissertation” in the General Catalog. 

Contact the department for a copy of the graduate syllabus, which provides detailed information on graduate programs in philosophy.